In the Homer art scene, artists sometimes have shows in the same year at different galleries. If they’re in group shows, it might even happen they have pieces in two different exhibits. For an artist to have two solo shows in the same month is about as rare as a total solar eclipse.
Homer artist Sharlene Cline pulled off that hat trick this month with “Wrapped” at Grace Ridge Brewery and “A Brush with Collage” at Ptarmigan Arts, both opening last Friday.
The burst of Cline art continues next year with a show about climate change in the spring at the Homer Council on the Arts, a show at the Pratt Museum, another in Anchorage and one in Washington. She also has another collage show at Blue Hollomon Gallery in Anchorage.
“I was on a mission to write proposals,” Cline said. “I guess I got more than I was thinking.”
A waitress at The Homestead Restaurant since 1997 and owner with her husband Rick of the Fritz Creek establishment since 2005, Cline’s creative flowering came about after she and Rick closed the restaurant for the year at the end of 2016 and then sold it early last summer. Cline also turned 50 this year — for some artists, a transition from youth to middle age that can lead to a new maturity in their work.
“In the spring when I started nesting in my studio, seriously nesting, I took out all my old stuff,” she said.
That led to discovering and seeing in new light “Wrapped,” paintings of trees covered in burlap fabric she did earlier this century. In her artist’s statement about the show, Cline said they appear as anthropomorphized beings. When she painted the trees, Cline didn’t actually understand what she did.
“When you’re actually working on something, there’s another part of you that takes over,” Cline said.
In 2000, Cline had breast cancer, and did one painting as she went through treatment.
“One of the wrapped trees is more personified. Here her right breast is … it’s completely red and etched out,” she said. “My subconscious knew what was going on before my conscious.”
When Cline went back into her studio, she also rediscovered some Chinese brush paintings she had done. Selected for the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival’s 6×6 bird exhibit, she did a bird painting. Using the collage method, Cline found a freedom in the brush paintings. If a painting had an element like a bird or flower she liked, she could cut it out and put it into collage. Many of her works in “A Brush with Collage” use brush paintings with cut paper.
“It’s Chinese painting on rice paper and I cut those out. I cut a lot of Japanese paper, handmade paper. I collage them together and put acrylic medium on it,” she said. “It’s just fun. It’s a fun series.”
Born in Montreal, Cline grew up in Miami and moved to Homer in 1995 after meeting Rick. After graduating from college through the experimental college, World College West, she lived in Taiwan from 1990-93 to teach English. There she studied Chinese brush painting with a master teacher, Yang O-Shi. In Chinese painting, artists choose the subjects of birds and flowers, mountains and people, or landscapes. Cline chose birds and flowers because of the emphasis on brush strokes.
“That’s what I love about Chinese painting,” she said.
In Chinese painting, artists use different size brushes. The paint is placed on the brush, sometimes in several colors, and a painting consists of delicate strokes carefully applied.
“If you look at just one of the sections of those paintings, it’s totally impressionistic paint strokes,” Cline said. “I wanted to learn the power of the brush. The chi, the energy, is expressed in your brush stroke.”
For example, the image of a bird’s wing might consist of several strokes showing feathers. Some strokes, like for the wingtips, might be smaller strokes. Cline said it can take minutes to contemplate a stroke, visualizing it and directing the energy into it.
Cline also has been facilitating what could be called an artists salon in the Paris model, the Artists Peer Review held 6-8 p.m. Thursdays at Bunnell Street Arts Center. Cline said the group has turned out not to be so much a critique of work as something else.
“Just having that sense of community and flourishing and having the dialogue, I think that’s what the peer review is doing for me,” she said. “I’m talking about process. … As an artist you’re usually by yourself. That’s really nice to create that environment.”
A mother of twins now age 14, like any artist balancing art with family, family still remains a focus in her life.
“It’s that thing about about being a mother and having a family and not having time to do your art,” Cline said.
Except now she has more time, at least a little bit more.
“I think it’s like going and doing a personal inventory of my stuff and seeing where I want to go next with my art. It was like the dam was let open,” Cline said. “… It’s a really nice time to think what I want to do. I have a bunch of other huge projects in my head. It’s exciting to have the time to do that.”